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09-25-2012, 05:59 PM   #1
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Focusing in low light situations

I usually shoot with natural lighting but was recently shooting for a friend at her event and the lighting was pretty dim and the camera was having a real hard time focusing. Is there any way around that apart from using a flash?

I have a cheap external flash at home but that didnt help much either. I definitely need to master using a flash, any tips/advice would be appreciated.

09-25-2012, 06:14 PM   #2
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I flash usually won't help until the photo is being taken, unless it has a focus assist light built into it.

How about a flashlight?

You can also find small attachments with a series of LED lights that go on with half-press of the shutter. Probably a bit of a hack... I've never tried them but have seen them around the internet, etc...

Regardless, you're going to have to add some extra light in some way. The hotshoe flash's focus light is not always very reliable, but a bit less intrusive than a flashlight.
09-25-2012, 06:38 PM   #3
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In low light manual focus is often the most reliable method. As noted above a flash with an AF assist lamp will also help, but that puts out a big red or green light that is annoying (IMHO) so I prefer to just use manual. The flash itself does not help with focusing, only the AF Assist lamp or additional light from external sources will do that.

The other thing to think about is the maximum aperture of your lens. The camera will try to AF with the lens wide open and then stop down to take the shot. So if you are using the kit lens at 55mm then wide open it is still only f/5.6 which pretty dark. If you have access to an f/2.8 or bigger aperture lens I think you will find the AF will work better. In the dark get a fast f/1.7 or f/1.7 lens and see the difference.
09-25-2012, 06:56 PM   #4
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Noggin, what camera do you have? If you still have the K-x, then manual focusing is you best bet. If you want to increase the success rate, then shoot using wide angles - that way you can still have a somewhat large aperture and get away with it - subject distance still matters of cause.

If you have a camera that supports setting the AF-S Mode to shutter release priority such as with K-5 or K-30, then use it - My K-30 is slow in night club type of lighting but I've found that using this setting, my success rate increases even though I do not wait for a full AF lock - it's very hard to get a lock when disco lights and people are moving fast around in such low lighting conditions

When I'm shooting wider at such low light conditions then I pre-focus manually and just fire away.

09-25-2012, 07:24 PM   #5
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Depends how low, and what lens. Please clarify.

My k-x with the Sigma 50 1.4 does suitably well in dim dinner situations.
09-26-2012, 02:11 AM   #6
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I generally use my Sigma 17-50mm F2.8, I also have the Sigma 50mm F1.4 but its too tight in some cases.

I have the K-x which seems to be a bit off since taking it to Burning Man so thinking of upgrading to the K-5 II or K-30.
09-30-2012, 06:33 PM   #7
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run in AF-C mode...you can trip the shutter even if it doesn't think it's locked. Unless you're trying wide open big aperture stuff, you'll get close enough most of the time that the shot looks fine...
10-02-2012, 04:49 PM   #8
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Thanks I will try that, I have never played with the AF modes, its been in AF-A since I bought it.

From what I read, AF-C is better for low light and AF-S for action shots.

10-02-2012, 05:23 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Noggin Quote
I generally use my Sigma 17-50mm F2.8, I also have the Sigma 50mm F1.4 but its too tight in some cases.

I have the K-x which seems to be a bit off since taking it to Burning Man so thinking of upgrading to the K-5 II or K-30.
Since it's the 17-50, it's a relatively fast lens. I'd say:

1) Aim for a contrasty bit if possible (eyebrow, shirt collar where it meets the neck)
2) The Sigma zoom should hold focus through it's range - zoom in a bit to get a contrasty bit bigger in your view for focus, then zoom out (or more in) for your actual shot.
3) My Sigma 50 F1.4 likes to go from completely OOF to focus lock for best accuracy. Sometimes it misses the focus if I shoot two things that are in similar focus ranges, but are just out of the DOF.
10-02-2012, 06:00 PM   #10
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Noggin,

Would a focus assist lamp help in your situations?

If so, please read this post.
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